Residents displaced by Naples apartment fire scramble to find housing

Posted at 7:02 PM, Apr 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 19:02:26-04

A fire at the Bear Creek Apartments in Naples Monday afternoon displaced almost 50 people. Tuesday, members of North Collier Fire and Rescue took them through their former homes, helping them collect personal items.

A spokeswoman with North Collier Fire and Rescue said the fire was caused by contractors who were welding, and caught a pillar on fire, not realizing it had gone into the attic of the building. Residents had smelled smoke an hour earlier, but didn't call 911 until flames were seen on the roof.

Judelise Forges wasn't home at the time of the fire, but said her son escaped along with all the other residents.

"As he was walking out, debris was falling down," Forges said. "It was horrifying."

She said her and her kids - with one more on the way - are staying in one room at her sister's.

"It's difficult," she said. "I'm due any time now. I'm going to have to search for another place, but affordable housing is very difficult (to find) in Naples."

Forges and dozens of her neighbors waited Tuesday morning while firefighters went through the units, bringing out items that weren't too damaged from smoke and water.

Zlatina Grozeva was able to follow them into her second floor apartment and point out what she wanted to save. She said it was hard to see her family's belongings in ruins.

"Very damaged," said Grozeva, whose family is staying with her in-laws. "The roof...everything is falling apart."

While all the electronics and furniture are a loss, the important things - like documents and her daughter's baby pictures - were saved.

"There's no other pictures like those," she said. "So for me, that I can keep it and have it, it's very nice."

The Red Cross was on site, helping her and her neighbors - most of whom don't have renter's insurance - with whatever they might need, even trying to find some a place to stay. 

Forges said the fire might have destroyed her home, but it didn't take everything.

"I'm glad my kids are safe," she said. "That's the important part."

A firefighter was injured in the fire when some debris fell on him. He was treated at a local hospital, but has since been released and is expected to be OK.